Thomas C. Naslund, MD

Aortic Dissection

An aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta. 

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Aortic Dissection Frequently Asked Questions

What causes an aortic dissection?

Possible causes include:

  • Genetic disorders including Marfan's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Turner's syndrome and polycystic kidney disease
  • Aging
  • High blood pressure
  • Injury to the chest
  • Heart surgery
  • Inflammation or narrowing of the aorta
  • Drug abuse such as cocaine and methamphetamine

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include:

  • Severe chest pain that is often described as a ripping or tearing feeling
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Aortic dissection are often confused with heart attacks.

How is it treated?

Blood pressure control is the cornerstone medical effort in managing aortic dissection.  Not only control of the blood pressure, but control the heart rate is important. In some circumstances, surgery of the aorta is needed because of risk for aortic rupture or inadequate blood flow to the branches of the aorta beyond the aortic tear.


If you have the diagnosis of aortic dissection...

you need permanent follow-up of your aorta to determine whether or not an aneurysm develops.